Herbal Health Information for Insomnia

There is no easy answer to this one as there are so many reasons people suffer from insomnia. Too much Caffeine is top of my list. Stress is next. Inability to relax, worry, overactive brain, noise sensitivity, not enough exercise, poor nutrition, hunger and so it goes on.
When I have a patient visit me suffering from Insomnia I look at lifestyle with a fine tooth comb.
Although this applies to general good health it is essential that a person is well fed. By well fed I do not mean over fed I mean has the right nutritional ingredients going into them.

LOOK AT YOUR DIET: – it needs to be a well balanced intake of protein, fats and carbohydrates with foods containing a fair share of vitamins and minerals such as fruit and veg. Never go to bed on an empty tummy but also do not eat just before you go to bed as this activates the digestive system at a time when the body should be calming down for the night. There is some research that shows calcium helps natural sleep which is why many people like a milky drink before bedtime.

CAFFEINE containing foods must be cut out of the diet
Tea, coffee, chocolate, coca cola, and all stimulant drinks such as red bull.
Many people think that drinking green tea is better for them, but green tea is higher in caffeine than ordinary tea so is not good to drink if you suffer insomnia. I don’t really drink very much alcohol, but one mad evening had one of those vodka alcopop drinks and was awake most of the night.
When I looked at the ingredients I saw the drink contained caffeine! So it is worth checking ingredients on packaging.
Giving up caffeine is HARD. Caffeine is addictive and the withdrawal symptoms include pounding headache and caffeine cravings, which can last for up to a week.
What I normally advise people to do is to reduce it slowly until they are on low caffeine intakes and can come off it without the withdrawal symptoms.
Tea and coffee substitutes are:-
The best substitute I have found is Rooibos tea (any supermarket) drunk weak and black.
Honeybush tea (internet) which is similar to Rooibos
Peppermint tea, which is a good morning cuppa.
Any herbal tea.
And of course loads of water……….no don’t bother to say YUK it is our natural drink.
A safe fizzy drink to have is Seven up as it has no additives, but, remember, fizzy drinks are a treat and should not be your normal daily drink.

EXERCISE is very important as we are natural “wanderers”.
So many people are doing sedentary jobs that it is important to make time to exercise. Exercise does several things for us, stimulates good blood circulation, uses up excess carbohydrates to prevent weight gain and uses up adrenaline shooting around the system from our bosses or co-workers or the lady in the supermarket having wound us up during the day.

I have a favourite sleep mix which I make up in clinic which contains:-

The other herbs I use are Californian poppy and Wild lettuce but not all in the same mix. You will be asking why I haven’t mentioned Chamomile. I love Chamomile but there are a few people who react completely back to front if they take Chamomile as a sleep aid and become hyperactive, so I use Chamomile mostly for the digestion and also to calm hyperactive children.
To go back to my sleep mix

Passiflora I have talked about in its own little article. It has mild sedative properties and is a relaxant.

Skullcap is a relaxing nervine as well as being anti spasmodic and relaxing. I use it because it is the only herb I know, which, due to its relaxing nervine properties, stops the brain going in to overdrive and thinking all those horrible “loop” thoughts when you are trying to get to sleep, such as, the shopping list or what activities the children have the next day or what shall I wear to my daughters wedding, or the amount of work piling up in the in tray, etc etc etc.

Valerian. You either love it or hate it. Smells like smelly feet but WHO CARES, when it is just about the best relaxing herb in the Herbal Pharmacopoeia.
Cats love it, my red headed daughter loves it and my once red headed now bald husband loves it, but the rest of the world hates it. I will list its actions:-
Hypotensive (lowers blood pressure)
All of this without giving you a woolly head the next day what more can you ask for?

There are many over the counter sleep mixes on the market, containing some or all of these herbs, but make sure they are licensed, or you could go visit your local herbalist.

Linda Bostock
Medical Herbalist Dip Phyt.

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